Milk Bread Buns

Milk bread is one of my favorite types of bread. It’s uber soft and very lightly sweet, but not sweet enough to be considered a sweet or dessert bread. I happily make these milk bread buns to go with dinner. Milk bread sometimes is called Hokkaido or Shokupan, as it was developed in Japan. The bread uses a technique called Tangzhong which makes a paste from water, milk and flour cooked briefly on the stove. This paste is added to the dough and helps keep it extra soft, and the bread to stay soft for longer. I think milk bread is like little pieces of clouds or a bread version of cotton candy.

Honestly, I could probably eat milk bread daily. This recipe makes the dough into buns, but you could very easily transform this into a loaf if you prefer. I also created a dessert version if you try these (or skip straight to) and want to have a sweeter version: Chocolate Malt Milk Buns. They are a chocolate version of milk bread, stuffed with chocolate. As if this bread couldn’t get better.

Key Ingredients

  • Tangzhong – This paste or roux adds a lot of the wonderful texture to the bread. It’s a very easy and quick way to make your bread extra soft.
  • Milk – Obviously, milk bread uses milk. When you use milk vs water in bread, the fat adds flavor and tenderness.
  • Butter – Like milk, butter adds a lot of flavor and extra fats making the bread soft.
Milk Bread Buns

Milk Bread Buns

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Servings: 9 Buns



  • 10 g Bread Flour ~1 tbsp + 1 tsp
  • 43 g Water
  • 43 g Whole or 2% Milk


  • 330 g AP or Bread Flour 2¾ cups
  • 2 tbsp Baker's Dry Milk
  • 2 tsp Instant yeast
  • 1 large Egg room temperature
  • 1 tsp Salt
  • 2 tsp Granulated sugar
  • ½ cup Whole or 2% Milk warm
  • 4 tbsp Unsalted butter softened


  • Prepare the tangzhong. Mix together, 23g flour, 43g water and 43g of milk in a small saucepan. Put the saucepan over medium-low heat and whisk constantly. When the whisk starts to leave trails where you can see the bottom of the pan, it is done. Transfer to a small bowl and allow to cool.
  • In the bowl of your stand mixer with your dough hook attached, add flour, baker's dry milk, yeast, salt, sugar, egg, and milk. Mix on low until a shaggy dough forms.
  • One tbsp at a time, add softened butter. Let butter fully incorporate into the dough until adding the next.
  • Knead dough on low until dough is very smooth and no longer sticking to the sides. Anywhere from 10-30 minutes.
  • When dough is ready, place in a lightly greased bowl and cover. Allow dough to rise for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size.
  • Prepare a pan with parchment. Any metal 8-9" square or circular pan will work. For a loaf, an 8.5×4.5" pan.
  • Punch down the dough and remove it from bowl. Divide dough into anywhere from 8-12 pieces. I use a 9 inch square cake pan to bake the buns and often do 9 pieces. If doing a loaf divide into 4 pieces.
  • For rolls: Take each piece of dough, holding it in your palm and fold the sides into the center, creating tension. Then place the dough ball seam side down on the counter. Cup your hand over the dough and use a circular motion to further round out and create tension in the dough.
    For a loaf: flatten each piece into a rectangle and roll up on the short side.
  • Place seam side down into the prepared pan. Repeat with remaining pieces of dough.
  • Cover the pan and allow dough to rise again for about another 45 minutes-1 hour, or until dough has puffed significantly.
  • About 20 minutes (more or less depending on your oven) into the second proof, preheat your oven to 350°F.
  • When buns are ready, place on the middle rack of your oven and bake for about 25 minutes or until buns are golden brown. A thermometer inserted into the bread should read 190°F.
  • Remove the bread from the pan to a wire cooling rack within 5-10 minutes. Let bread cool at least 30 min before eating. Store in an airtight container.
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